Saturday, 29 February 2020

The Affair at Yeldakh – 10th July 1918

The Russian Civil War is an attractive period to wargame for those interested in the First World War and its immediate aftermath.

Battles are not trench bound slogs for a few yards of mud and blood; instead there is the sweep of the battlefield, new weaponry and some exotic troops too. The scenario selected for our club meeting comes from “The Miniature Adventures of Dunsterforce 1918” by Robert Giglio.

The scenario book and guide from Partizan Press

You can further read the Adventures of Duster Force here:

The Ottoman Turks and their Aziri allies are marching towards Baku and its oil reserves, by the Caspian Sea. Britain has sent a small force under General Dunsterville, to assist in the defence of Baku, where the Bolsheviks have a fractious hold over the city.

Not all Russian troops have gone over to the Bolsheviks and a powerful force of Cossacks and Armenians, under Colonel Bicherkov, is still prosecuting the war against the Ottoman Turks. If these Cossacks can make it to Baku, the likelihood of defending the city would be greatly improved.

Some British armoured cars and support units have been sent to help the Cossacks, but little else can be done unless the Cossacks can make it to Baku. Both the Cossack and Ottoman forces need to cross the River Kura to continue their march towards Baku.

There is only one suitable bridge north of the town of Yeldakh, so both armies are racing to seize the bridge which is defended by a force of entrenched Bolsheviks, who do not favour either side very much – all the ingredients for an exciting wargame.

The terrain is open with some woodland and ditches and a single farm building. Both armies start where their route-march road enters the table heading towards the bridge. Both have the option to hold back two units to arrive anywhere along their own table edge later in the game, depending on a D6 roll.

The Turks take this option, but the Cossacks do not. The Cossacks start by pushing their armoured cars and cavalry down the road as fast as possible, to secure the bridge. The Turks adopt a different strategy by advancing their Aziri contingent directly towards the Cassock line of march and using their pre-planned artillery barrages to hit areas where they anticipated Cossack and Bolshevik units might be.

The Bolshevik bridge defenders soon realise that today will not be just another quite one and start to consider their options. The scenario requires the two Bolsheviks infantry units to roll a D6 each turn, to determine what they might do; go on strike, defend the bridge valiantly or remember there is political rally to attend back in Yeldakh?

With a squadron of British armoured cars stationed between the Bolsheviks and the Turks, the Bolsheviks are resolute defenders. But soon the Turkish infantry supported by their Maxim guns, are advancing determinedly towards the bridge. Another unit of Turkish infantry, supported by a Maxim gun, suddenly appear much closer to the Bolsheviks than expected (these are the two Turkish units held off-table). A serious tussle for the approach to the bridge begins.

The Cossack cavalry arrive at the bridge, half cross-over towards Baku and the other half charge and scatter the first wave of advancing Turkish infantry. The Turks meanwhile, have concentrated their Maxim guns on the British armoured cars, slowly accumulating enough damage to drive them off. At this moment the most hotly engaged Bolshevik unit decides to reconsider its options and goes on strike.

If the Bolsheviks hoped that by not shooting, the Turks would reciprocate they are mistaken. The Turks attack the trench line killing several Bolsheviks and getting into the earthworks. With ever more units reaching the approach to the bridge, the fighting became more furious.

Now it is the turn of the mounted Turkish lancers to charge a unit of Cossack infantry advancing rapidly down the road towards the bridge. The outcome is predictably poor for the infantry, but now isolated from their own supporting troops the Turkish lancers are cut down by a Bolshevik Maxim gun.

At this moment the on-striking and hard-pressed Bolshevik unit remembers the political rally in Yeldakh and headed off to town, leaving their defences to the Turks, who quickly reinforced the newly-won position. The Bolshevik Commissar realises that "all Russians are in it together" and orders the remaining Bolsheviks to retake the lost position, but his comrades were not convinced and
go one strike!

By now the Cossack baggage train and its Persian handlers is on the road heading slowly towards the bridge. For the Aziri infantry the prospect of loot is just too much. The Aziris leap to their feet heading towards the baggage, regardless of determined Armenian rifle fire, supported by Cossack Maxim and light artillery guns. At this stage Col. Bicherakov, in consultation with his Armenian counterpart, Col. Srvandztyan, concludes that any further attempt to get their forces over the bridge is futile and a fighting withdrawal is ordered.

That evening Col. Bicherakov met up with British Lt-Col. Clutterbuck and asked him to write to General Dunsterville, firmly laying the blame on the Bolshevik Commissar Petrov.

The Turkish – Aziri forces continued their advance to Baku under the able command of Colonel Mursel Bey and Lt. Col Rustamov Pasha.

Thanks to Lawrence and Paul for commanding the Turks and Aziris so successfully and commiserations to Chas and Steve “the hat” who did their very best with a force of Cossack, Bolsheviks, Armenians, Persians and British.

Stephen Huntsman

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Target for Tonight - Mannheim Ludwigshaven

Last weekend at the club, we played the sixth game in a campaign of eight games, this time recreating the raid on Mannheim-Ludwigshaven on the 23rd-24th September 1944 using Target for Tonight, rules designed to recreate the WWII night bombing campaign conducted by Bomber Command.

Another difficult op has further reduced the lead for Bomber Command and left the overall campaign result in the balance.

If you would like to know more about the game and the campaign as a whole then just follow the link below to see what happened.

JJ's Wargames - Target for Tonight

Many thanks to Steve L, Stephen H, Nick and Bob for flying all the way there and back again, braving flak and nightfighters as they went.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Teutons and The Battle of the Snowman - Hail Caesar

Battles in snow clad terrain tend to be rather eye-catching affairs especially in periods of yore when gaily coloured forces often as not lined up to face each other across a vastness of white.

One such period that offers a chance to model such a clash is the Teutonic Order of Knights and their push for dominion in the east against the Baltic tribes.

The snowy waste of our table with the river well and truly lined and with the Teutonic infantry deploying in the top left

The infantry lining the river were a mixed feast of archers, spears and two handed axes.

Our scenario saw the Slavic forces lined up, rather sensibly, behind an unknown, well unknown to those of us commanding the Teutons, frozen river barrier that had potential to disorder and generally mess up any attempt to come crashing across it, in spite of any perceived solidity.

If that wasn't bad enough, their confidence in their position shone through, in that they had obviously taken the time to build a snowman which chimed perfectly with the taunts in broken German drifting across the snowy waste suggesting our parents smelt of elderberry and to go away with out stupid German Kernigits before they would taunt as some more!

Spearmen and crossbows holding the wood and a certain snowy effigy.

The Teutonic infantry and friends prepare to advance behind a line of skirmishing archers

Well any self respecting Teutonic Hochmeister wasn't prepared to put up with that kind of nonsense from some anonymous, badly groomed, and very smelly Slavic peasant, no matter how big and sharp those axes looked.

The boss, close at hand to get the advance moving swiftly 

As the German infantry closes on the position the arrows and bolts start to fly.

Taking stock of the enemy position securely lined up on their river with woods at either end and a mass of spears, archers and axemen awaiting any rash assault, with heavy cavalry and horse archers hovering behind in close attendance, we Teutons decided to create a 'Schwerpunkt', something that would become a favourite tactic of later generations, but I assure you, we invented it first!

Lithuanian horse archers advance over the river to do what horse archers do best, delay, annoy and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

So in accordance with our cunning plan Nathan led our heroically, or is that hysterically, brave infantry across the snow towards the right flank of the enemy position, protected on their right flank by a refused advance of massed German knight types covered in plenty of metal and carrying very long sharp sticks.

This cunning plan had two advantages in that it left a lot of the nastier enemy types staring at open snowy waste, wondering if they should come on over, the water is lovely, and should our hysterically brave infantry do the business, not only would they unhinge a very difficult position but they could equally deal with that insulting snowman.

The horse archers get support down river from some foot archers who have come across to support their efforts to harass the German right flank as it advances on the river

Of course, you can always trust such dastardly foes as these peasants obviously were, to not play fair and so they sat doggedly behind their frozen barricade content to push forward a mass of of foot and horse archers to pelt our brave lads from front and flank with very annoying and dangerous arrows, likely to take an eye out if not very careful.

Enter the Teutonic cavalry echeloned to the rear-right of the infantry and throwing out light cavalry to push back the horse and foot archers 

The Teutonic order heavy knights together with mercenary knights and mounted sergeants move up to prepare to support the infantry.

Well this insufferable tactic couldn't be borne for long, so in went the infantry types who soon started to gain ascendancy on the enemy right flank, knocking down that little snowy dwarf as they went and generally upsetting what till then had looked a very tidy line.

Meanwhile on the right amid arrows, our brave light cavalry spears supported by some heavy sergeants, with the occasional push back, eventually forced the enemy horse archers and foot skirmishers to back away from our right flank as the Hochmeister led forward the serried ranks of our finest knightly orders.

Missile fire is now at belly-button range as the massed infantry blocks prepare to follow up on the disorder caused

The fighting for control on the German left flank is the first to erupt in hand to hand combat

With the enemy right turned and pushbacks starting to happen along the line behind the river, the time had come to see if our 'donkey wallopers' were very overpaid and had an exaggerated sense of their own self worth or if rumours of their martial abilities were really true.

So unleashing the dogs of war, the first ranks of heavy Teutonic knights charged over the ice and thankfully nothing happened, I mean it held firm and no one slipped.

The German left has pushed over the river, and the centre is engaged in close combat as the heavy knights draw up ready to charge.

The flank advance continues as Lithuanian Town Militia attempt to stem the tide amid heavy fighting.

Before you could shout 'don't point that bloody thing at me!' the flower of German knightly manhood were across the ice and prodding peasant types back from where they had come from, breaking one unit of spears in the first charge and turning in on the flank of some rather large hairy chaps, carrying two handed axes.

This latter confrontation proved to be most beneficial after the experience of fighting these chaps from the flank underlined the extreme risk of tackling them from the front whilst ones horse was desperately trying to maintain its footing on a frozen iced up river.

Teutonic spearmen keep the pressure on

The line is well and truly broken as Lithuanian heavy cavalry awaiting the assault of the German knights now have another problem to deal with

However as so often happens in these types of actions once a gap has appeared in an apparently secure line and with a flank being remorselessly driven back the initiative and direction of travel starts to roll in one direction, not to say that the Teutons had it all their own way, but by the closing stages of our game, the position on the river looked compromised and the snub of the snowman comprehensively avenged.

Crunch! the centre of the line is pierced and rolled back by the German knights as their enemy counterparts rush towards the German infantry threatening to roll up the line.

More German cavalry pour into the gap opened up to support the break in.

Thus the peasant hordes would wake up the next morning to the comforting thought that feudalism was here to stay and everyone knew his place in the order of things, just as it should be!

Anyone fancy a quick crusade to the Holy Lands?

The horse archers help detain other heavy cavalry elements that might otherwise be employed battering their hard pressed infantry.

Thanks to Mr Steve for bringing down his excellent 15mm collection to play with and to Steve L and Nathan for adding to the fun.